Why branding starts with compelling storytelling

Shoto branding by Spinach Branding

Creating a brand is complex. It involves carefully selecting and assembling a series of building blocks that will shape an enduring concept. It is about truly understanding the needs and wants of now, but also speculating the future. And it requires storytelling. By this we don’t mean crafting a fictional tale, but rather weaving a narrative anchored on reality and with a genuine brand promise.

The initial start then has to be about the ‘why’: Is this brand fulfilling a need, a space; is a radical rethink, or a brief for a moment in time? Does it conform to the zeitgeist or is it looking ahead beyond fleeting trends? Often the storytelling happens at the end of the project, almost like a press release to sell an idea. This may work temporarily, but the consumer will see through this. This is why the ‘why’ is fundamental in crafting a unique narrative.

How the story is then developed, how it is directed and unfolds to evolve seamlessly through the brand’s lifetime, is key to its longevity. We see it as creating a solid foundation to build further upon. And this is where branding becomes exciting.

We ask our branding director, Leigh Banks, to share the London agency’s approach in creating successful brand narratives.

What in your opinion makes for a powerful brand narrative?

I see it as a compelling story which explains the unique characteristics of a business, including its personality, backstory and its reasons for being. A strong narrative will enable a brand to connect with clients and customers on an emotional level. This is extremely important since we tend to make decisions based on emotions rather than rationality. Of all the emotions, love, respect and desire are the most powerful. Strong brands will be aware of this and are able to create meaningful and authentic stories to stimulate these emotions.

Does it matter how small or big the company is?

Not at all. A good example is Richard Branson. He is the master of creating the challenger brand narrative, taking on the establishment, and testing the status quo to great success. Branson started his company Virgin by selling records from the back of a van! So, the size of the company isn’t as important as the belief and purpose – without either there would not have been a compelling narrative for Branson to platform on.

What projects has Spinach Branding been involved with which can highlight your approach?

We’ve been working with a number of clients with unique brand narratives, which we have been able to tap into. From the ones I can talk about three spring to mind: Soho House’s halo brand Cowshed, Italy’s iconic drinks brand Campari, the Shoto restaurant in Washington DC, and the fine wine specialist Maze Row.

With all three commissions we established extensive project teams from across multiple agencies, disciples and channels to deliver in-line with our initial positioning work. And although two are established brands and the latter a new brand conceived by our team alongside the client, they share a vision for creating powerful and timeless branding and design rooted in brand narratives that are unique to each one of them.

With today’s consumers navigating a complex web of communication channels, how best should businesses tell their brand story?

The old rules remain the same: who are the target audiences, and how do they consume information. Then based on this knowledge we would assess which mix of channels offers the best returns. For instance, an engineer who spends his working day out of office in a transit van is much more likely to be moved by strategically-placed radio advertising than the latest multi-platform social campaign. Likewise, there are generational and cultural differences. Understanding the customer, applying common sense and then thinking outside of the herd, will go a long way to providing the strategy for an effective communications campaign.

Communication platforms are also ever-evolving, as is technology. What are the challenges for a consultancy like Spinach Branding in keeping up with the pace of change?

The amount of expertise needed to effectively operate across all channels is always a challenge, especially as the various platforms are constantly evolving. Whether you are a consultancy with all the expertise in-house, or one who partners with complementary agencies, the main narrative still needs to be managed across multiple teams.

And the risks?

I cannot stress enough: the brand narrative must remain consistent across multiple channels. This includes the language, the photography and the design. As ever, the risk is that the messaging platform becomes diluted as it is distributed out across agencies. This is where it is vital for the lead branding consultancy to be the guardian of the brand proposition and the narrative. Ultimately, the team will have a greater understanding of how to communicate this.

Images: Shoto © Spinach Branding

Spinach Branding is a specialist branding agency based in London. We work with established businesses and start-ups around the world to build and refine their brands. See how we work and get in touch to discuss your brand.

Shoto branding by Spinach Branding
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